Tag: Happying

6May

Not[with]standing

The afternoon had started so full of promise. I had already wrapped things up at work, gone for a [reluctant] run, and picked up my favorite two offspring from school. Homemade pizza was on the agenda as was writing an insightful blog post about mothering… but first, story time. The backyard was decked out in a golden-green sunswath, newly-clustered cherries gleaming like crown jewels, so we scooped up an armful of books and the picnic blanket to go revel in the finery. I laid the blanket out on a mattress of daisies, we plumped ourselves stomach-down to read, and BAM—my old arch-nemesis the allergy swooped in for the kill.

Within twenty seconds, I was ready to take a pick axe to my inner ears, a power sander to my eyeballs, and a double-edged Microplane zester to my nose. Shortly thereafter, my brain’s functionality began shutting down as it tends to do in these situations, and by the time we finished meeting the infamous Nellie Oleson,  I was only two sneezes removed from a zombie.

The blog entry was clearly not going to happen. I moped a bit about the turn of events while sifting through the brain fog  for any usable scrap of intelligence, but I finally had to give up. How can a gal compete against airborne forces of darkness that simultaneously wipe out her energy and her motivation to make coffee? She simply can’t. So after a mere hour of brooding through prickly eyes at a blank page, I shut off my computer.

Instead of writing, I played Wii with Natalie and enlisted her help in the most giggle-intensive freezer defrosting ever. I snuggled Sophie and let her use her magic touch on the pizza dough. (Hint: Sophie’s magic touch involves a lot of pummeling.) We tried on hats and thoroughly ignored the house’s pleas to clean it, and the afternoon of not-so-very-productive fun with my girls ended up far better than the one I had neatly mapped out in my head, allergies notwithstanding… even if I didn’t manage to get an insightful post about motherhood out of it.

Best freezer defroster ever

21Apr

Inventory

Life has felt off lately. It’s not that I’m having trouble adjusting to work but rather that I’m having trouble fitting Everything Else around the shaded blocks on my calendar. Recharge time has auditioned against grocery shopping and lost (hey, we’ve still gotta eat), and I’m always surprised by how quickly my perspective begins to flounder when my schedule fills up. I just get so focused on the task directly in front of my nose that I don’t notice which way I’m walking. Then comes an unhurried morning like this, the opportunity to rendezvous with myself, and I realize I have no idea where I’ve ended up.

I could be anywhere—a plateau overlooking wide horizons, a sinkhole hidden somewhere, a thicket of brambles, a strange new world—and the not-knowing spins my head off its axis. At the risk of outing myself as a control freak, I only feel like I can relax into my life when I’m sitting securely atop it, when I can survey it and take inventory and toggle wrongs into rights with a flick of my wrist. Getting lost inside my own head space seems like the ultimate failure.

I’ve been thinking about gratitude this morning as well. I know people who swear by gratitude journals, by counting blessings, by thank you notes turned into holy liturgy, and it certainly couldn’t hurt my pessimistic nature to stretch its neck to the other side of the fence once in a while. I’m not on top of everything—or possibly even anything—right now, but I’ll take inventory nonetheless…

…Of my wildflower daughter with the honey-kissed hair and freckled nose and my other daughter with the hair like a curtain of sunbeams and the laugh crinkles, both wearing tutus and singing variations on a theme of  “Ring Around the Rosies” in the other room…

…Of this job that asks of me my training but not my life and gives back more than it takes…

…Of the daisy constellations in the spring-green universe of our backyard…

…Of the weekend ahead penciled in for adventure and relaxation and games of hide and seek through lakeside trees…

…Of the gift of choice… and the greater gifts that I wouldn’t have known to choose…

And tallying up the bounty surrounding me, I still may not know exactly where I am, but I discover that I’m glad to be here.

13Apr

Prepositional Monotony

On the brain:

Spring de-cluttering
Salsa seedlings
Campgrounds on Lake Como (yay!)
A friend we haven’t seen in seven years coming to visit (double yay!)

On the table:
Cold medicine (bah)
A stockpile of tissues (double bah)
An extra-large cappuccino
A slice of Colomba, the traditional Italian sweet bread made around Easter

On the floor:
Sand from the playground
Dust from the perpetually open windows
Gravel from the running track
Brand new kids’ tennis shoes with a summer’s worth of bounces spring-loaded in them

On the bookshelf:
On the Banks of Plum Creek; after a short detour to Scotland, the girls and I are forging back into prairie land with Laura and Mary
Io Non Ho Paura (link is to the translated version); despite not being able to read as quickly in Italian, I’m completely engrossed
Art & Max; since I gave this to Natalie for her birthday in March, it’s never left the reading stack
ESL textbooks galore!

On the heart:
A dozen writing projects dancing just out of reach of time and focus
More time to connect with my sweet little family
The octopus-sized spider lurking in the laundry bag yesterday (as in, my heart hasn’t recovered yet)
Catching up with all of you

Your turn!

31Mar

Catnip

I’ve written before about how my childhood springtimes in Texas failed to coax any drop of sentimentality out of me. In fact, I couldn’t understand why so many people went into raptures around the end of March. Our primary spring imports were mud and allergies, and the weather’s slow slide from warm to really warm hardly seemed worth rhapsodizing. (It’s entirely possible, of course, that I could have put more effort into noticing the seasonal beauty, but I was always loyal to autumn with its crackling leaf piles and nutty breezes.)

Here in Italy, however, this time of year is like personalized catnip. Only a flimsy fondness for decorum keeps me from rolling around in every patch of wild daisies I see, paws flying and propriety punch-drunk on sunshine. Not only have I stopped minding when others wax poetic about spring, I’ve started my own list of celebratory ballad topics:

  • The sight of freshly washed socks tiptoeing on the line rather than slung over radiators to steam dry. (If any of you knows Journey’s song-writing team, you’re welcome to direct them here.)
  • The scent of my favorite lemon perfume laced with memories of Sorrento and excitement over this Easter’s camping trip.
  • The texture of damp earth, the elemental weight of seeds between finger and thumb, and the whisper-touch of newborn plants.
  • The sound of the girls’ laughter spirited away by the open air, waltzing in windows and back out to whirl under their footsteps.
  • The flavor of 2011’s first strawberries, sorbet for dessert, and cherry blossoms dished up on periwinkle breeze.

Plum blossoms in the backyard

What about you? Does anything about this time of year stir you into a feline frenzy and/or inspire you to poeticize socks?

1Mar

Memory Aid

To be honest, I don’t always remember that Dan is my best friend. I have no trouble remembering that we’re roommates, especially when the house is in need of an intervention. I’m pretty good about keeping in mind that he’s the father of my children, particularly at the end of a long day when said children are loudly voicing their displeasure over the institution of toothbrushing. I remember he’s the one who usually takes the trash out, who does school drop-off, who calls the phone company when our internet goes AWOL, who mixes the drinks, who brings home the steady paycheck… but sometimes, in the muddle of parenting and housekeeping and responsible-adulting, I forget that he’s also the one who can take me from crying to laughing in two seconds flat.

I suspect this is common symptom of long-term relationships—familiarity turning to invisibility, perspective glazing over as time blows past—but it still sucks. I often wish there were a magic spell that would allow me to wake up each morning with my sense of wonder firmly intact. A newlywed potion would work just as well… or any kind of mental caffeine to keep me constantly aware of the things I love about my husband and our coupleness. Any of you aspiring entrepreneurs want to take a crack at it?

Meanwhile, as we wait for relational LSD to go on the market, we’ll just have to make a steady habit of the next-best formula: babysitter + snowboards + lift tickets for two. I hadn’t thought we would be able to hit the slopes this year, so a belated Valentine’s getaway to the mountains last weekend was a delightful surprise. We laughed, we wiped out, we took full advantage of the off-trail opportunities, and Dan even got a chance to come to my rescue like a knight in shining snow gear. It was all very dignified, I assure you.

For a couple chronically short on time and vacation funds with two small children and a messy kitchen at home, a weekend snowboarding trip doesn’t make much sense… but for a couple chronically short on fun and relaxation with 7.5 years of marriage and a bajillion life changes under their belts, it not only makes sense—it makes remembering easy.

4Jan

Auld Lang Syne With Frosting

Dear, neglected little blog,

It’s been so long I’m not even sure where to start. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thought of you often—while baking and decorating and wrapping, while celebrating holiday traditions with our Italian family, while toasting to the new year under a dizzy display of fireworks, even while huddling feverish under a mound of blankets unsure what month it was anymore. I had promised myself that this would be the December I found time to blog regularly, but whoops, look at that, it’s January already, and what?!

Not only is it January, but 2011 is already hurtling full speed at my head. There are some quick decisions to be made and goals (note: not resolutions) to be focused in on before my brain power scatters in fright over this mighty new year, and I’m already behind on so many things that 2012 is starting to get worried. This is no way to celebrate the untapped potential of 365 fresh-faced days, I know. I also know that stressing over a vague accumulation of responsibility is neither going to help me get well nor whittle down my to-do list… but that’s what I do. I stress. Then I write about it. Then I share it with you, and then I get back to living like a reasonably sane individual.

New years always seem to find me this way, on the restless side of recovery, bewildered, angsty, unsteady. I guess it’s sort of my post-holiday tradition. Some people make resolutions; I fumble around for my bearings. It’s not a bad practice, truth be told—sifting through perspectives and reclaiming priorities. I should probably make more of a habit of it rather than waiting for it to knock me off balance the moment the fireworks fade, but I just get busy, and weeks scurry by, and when I finally pause at the page again, I don’t recognize its landscape.

But this was supposed to be a letter, not a therapy session. So, dear blog, here’s some of what you’ve missed over the last two weeks:

  • Two small giggly girls rocking around the Christmas tree to their favorite tunes, headbanging in Santa hats, and reenacting every possible mention of reindeer.
  • Wrapping paper, ribbons, and sparkly pens taking over our living room with scissors in small hands as the four of us shared the fun of dressing gifts up in their holiday finest.
  • A friend and I running across the cobblestone streets of downtown in our high heels in an umbrella-snapping rainstorm, determined to make it to a concert on time and laughing harder and harder the less presentable we looked.
  • Christmas Eve morning spent introducing a houseful of Italians to the wondrous thing we call brunch (they couldn’t bring themselves to drink coffee with it, but it was a delicious success nonetheless).
  • Some mangled slabs of gingerbread, gobs of frosting, and four solid tons of mismatched candy turning into one of the most hilarious and happy family activities we’ve ever attempted.
  • Legos, board games, Wii (ours), Kinect (not ours), and more Legos—time spent together rediscovering the lost art of play (though I have yet to rediscover the lost art of maneuvering video game controls in a competent fashion).
  • Fireworks bursting on all sides of our balcony, too many to count, a dazzling 360° salute to a year of new mercies.

I’ve missed you, dear blog, and I’m sure any lingering hard feelings can be smoothed over with this artisan dessert:

Gingerbread masterpiece

(May or may not contain several pieces of licorice that Sophie tasted, spit out upon realizing she hates licorice, and stuck to the roof before we clued in about her building method.
Also, Management is not responsible for any diabetic comas suffered as a result of looking at this photo.)

You’re welcome,
Bethany

9Dec

Reggae and Redemption

I haven’t been to church in a few Sundays for various reasons, feeling like death among them, but I’ve stayed spiritually attuned (ha) with the help of my earphones. A year and a half after writing my post about non-churchy songs for the soul, I still haven’t eased back into the worship music scene. I approach it like an outsider now, mystified and sometimes uncomfortable listening in on an outpouring of theological convictions I don’t necessarily share.  However, my need to connect to God with my senses hasn’t shut down just because the Christian standard doesn’t work for me anymore. I still sing when no one’s around (you’re quite welcome) and  unwind in the mesmerizing dance of words and music, so without further ado, here are eight more unconventional songs for the soul:

1. O Holy Night by Seven Day Jesus 
In honor of the approaching holiday, here is my favorite rendition of my favorite Christmas song. Yes, it falls awfully close to hymn territory, but it speaks of yearning, of social justice, and of the love that continually draws me to God in spite of my chronic non-churchiness.

“Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name, all oppression shall cease…”

2. I Will Be Light by Matisyahu
Matisyahu’s “Light” is my running album, but I always find myself slowing when I get to track six. It’s like a double shot of perspective that both satisfies my daily craving for purpose and energizes my drive for compassion. I hear God’s reggae roots in it, and I’m always running again by the end of the song.

“You’ve got one tiny moment in time
For life to shine, to burn away the darkness…”

3. Let Go by Frou Frou 
This song ends one of my favorite movies with an unexpected rush of joy. The beauty of breaking down, of jumping from a carefully orchestrated tragedy into a deep unknown, is one I know well, and the freedom I’ve found since is well worth playing on repeat.

“So let go, just get in,
Oh, it’s so amazing here,
It’s alright,
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown…”

4. Light and Day by Polyphonic Spree
The band is undeniably nutty and almost a little too happy (here is the alternate music video which is basically a three minute LSD trip), but I love this song’s positivity. It’s easy to get caught up in moody introspection, and a cheery reminder to seek the light is always welcome. (Though really, guys… fairies?)

“Just follow the day,
Follow the day and reach for the sun!”

5. You’ve Got the Love by Florence + The Machine
I’m there far more often than I wish, wading knee-deep in the mess of my own life wondering what’s the use. It’s the human condition this side of eternity, I think. However, the amount of love spilling over onto this side is more than enough for the road.

“Sometimes I feel like saying ‘Lord I just don’t care,’
But you’ve got the love I need to see me through…”

6. Get Me Right by Dashboard Confessional 
Chris Carrabba was my introduction to emo music years ago, and he has a gift for wrenching personal struggles out of the shadows into the stage lights. This song is particularly candid and makes no attempt to dilute his ache for redemption. I especially like his terminology of God as the one who makes things right; it’s a belief I grasp with all my heart.

“I don’t mind the rain if I meet my maker,
I’ll meet my maker clean…”

7. Let the Rain by Sara Bareilles 
This is a recent discovery, a poignant reflection that echoes my own wishes for change—release from oppression, from stifling tradition, from fear and cowardice and incapability and status quo—a cleansing deluge of newness.

“And I always felt it before
That the world was filled with so much more
Than the drowning soul I’ve learned to be,
I just need the rain to remind me…”

8. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons
I had a tough time choosing just one song of theirs. The entire album so perfectly captures the experience of waking up to life and identity, wholehearted awareness, grace… and this song, well, I dare you not to get swept away on its rollicking current. It’s one church service I wouldn’t mind attending in the least.

“And so I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground,
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul…”

Any that you’d like to add?

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